Community matters

As one who lives quite far removed from the waters he sails on, I connect to the local sailing community mostly by a common love of things nautical. Because of geography, only intermittently do I wander the Eastport streets and hang out in the marinas and watering holes frequented by my fellow sailors and local denizens. Those normal routines for local folks help define a sailing community. Us sailors who live some distance away seek other connections.

When friends share a day’s sail or a longer cruise – or just the telling of it, there is no distance between us. Community ties are strong, and the fabric of the community is strengthened by our common experiences. These connections are typically ingrained and pervasive such that most of us give it not a bit of thought.

I think about this because a sense of belonging is a fundamental human need. Perhaps it has its origins around the fires now distant in time, when being part of the clan meant survival. Absent a connection to community, even today, we often feel some subtle unease. So, I wonder about ways in which the sailing community in particular fashions ties between us that benefit both the individuals and the larger community.

Many interconnections and commonalities draw us together. We join local clubs – often several. We participate in organized activities both on and off the water. Some spend time on internet forums where we can share stories and information. Our leaders provide examples to follow (or not), and we share goals such as the creation of a sailing hall of fame. All give form and substance to our community.  The dividends are apparent when we unexpectedly find old (or make new) friends at distant anchorages, receive help online to some puzzle with our boats, or guidance for a difficult passage or harbor entrance, or just a helping hand with dock lines. How close a community it feels when a marina manager remembers you from one overnight there two years previous. Some wander singly around the globe to test skill and endurance or feed the soul, but most of us find our satisfaction in the company of other sailors.

Important, and woven into those many ways in which we nurture our sense of community, is how we treat our fellow sailors – friends and strangers alike.  If we are welcoming, helpful and respectful we nourish our connections. If otherwise, we create tensions that weaken them. The courtesy with which we treat others is anything but common. Even the small wave to a passing boat is part of the glue that keeps us together as a community of sailors, and feeds that fundamental need to belong.

While I’m not a fan of bumper stickers, I do smile at some, sometimes curse at others, but always nod in agreement with the one that says ‘Choose Civility’.  At a minimum, that is good advice for how to treat others on and off the water – should I say ‘even power boaters’? 🙂

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